What a Year!

What an amazing past few months! I have been on the go non-stop since my last post but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think I will just go through the months and share some pictures of all the things I have been doing.

 

February-

The YAVs hosted a Super Bowl Party for the Young Adults at our host church. We had kickoff cupcakes, Super Bowl Rings (ring pops), penalty flags (yellow napkins), and of course lots of fun!

 

We also presented to about the YAV program and our work here in Indy at the Whitewater Valley Presbytery meeting. It was great to share our work with all the local churches and there was a visitor from Newton Presbytery!Presbytery

 

My favorite event (besides the one I planned) was the Center For Interfaith Cooperation’s Interfaith Ambassador of the Year dinner. We volunteered at the beginning of the dinner, but then got to sit and enjoy learning more about K.P. Singh the man we were honoring. People from all faiths came forward and spoke of how great a man he is. As an amazing artist, last year, he was asked to create five painting to give to the recipients of this award. When the CIC picked him for this year he insisted that he not be treated special and so he graciously received his own painting back. It was a great evening and after helping to clean up we got a quick picture with this great leader.CIC

 

We also volunteered with the Kenya Carnival this year. This is a Global Interfaith Partnership event to raise money for scholarships for students in Kenya. Students from schools and churches all around Indy work to raise money and this event is their biggest fundraiser. It was great to see the community flood 2nd Presbyterian Church. I made fudge and cupcakes for their cakewalk and got creative with toothpick flags and cupcakes with all the colors of the Kenyan flag.Kenya Carnival

 

March-

I got to go home! It was great to spend Easter with my family and see all my friends. I stepped of the long bus ride at 6:30, stopped to see my grandmother at the nursing home before heading to dinner with church friends. It was a great welcome home even if I was exhausted.home

 

April-

Megan and I attended a dinner at Westminster Neighborhood Services. We had a great evening chatting with people from 2nd Pres., meeting new people, and hearing from Bill Enright, a retired pastor from the church. It was also a chance for us to learn more about the community services that this organization provides.westminster

 

April 29th was the big night! The night I have been working toward since I started in September. With a record number of attendees and a venue change it was an exciting and stressful month. However, that night was great. I got to meet people I had been emailing all year, I won a hand-carve crocodile from Uganda, and we raised an astounding $200,000! As we look forward to next year we are excited to find a new venue where we can continue to grow. BTW $200,000 translates into almost 7 schools we will be able to build.crocodile

 

May-

This month has been a mix of Build-A-School Night debriefing/breathing and gearing up for our next big event, Indy Burger Battle. I will share more about that in my next blog.

 

The YAVs all attended an Abrahamic Dinner this month. We were all separated for dinner at different tables and it was great. It was so nice to meet new people instead of sitting with the same people all the time. The topic of the evening was “The Prophets as Refugees”. We heard from the three Abrahamic traditions, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, about how the faiths see the prophets as refugees from other lands, how followers of all the traditions have been refugees at some point in history, and how we as believers today must open our hearts and homes to people seeking refuge.

 

Last Sunday Megan and I spoke at the Fairview Presbyterian Church about the YAV program and our year so far. I attend their contemporary service with Megan every other Sunday and I have come to appreciate the upbeat atmosphere. I do go to traditional service on opposite weeks where I can replenish my soul with traditional hymns, responsive prayers, and of course seeing all my 2nd Pres. friends.Fairview

 

On Monday we had most of our YAV Ministry team over for a Potluck Dinner. The ministry team has been meeting for years to make way for the Indy YAV program. We wouldn’t be here without them. Over the past nine months we have gotten to know each one of them through different avenues in our year. It was a great time of fellowship and because it was such a beautiful day we all sat out on the porch. We ended our night playing Bananagrams on the porch before finishing the dishes and getting the house back in order.potluck

 

This weekend, as some of you may be aware, there is a big race happening here in Indy. It is the Indy something, some number…oh yeah the Indy500! While I do not have tickets, Madison does so he will be out an about with a friend he has visiting. Megan is heading home to attend one wedding and be in another. That means I will have the house to myself! Harry Potter Marathon here I come!

 

In other exciting news one of my bestest friends ever had a baby girl last Tuesday. I am so excited for her. One of our Lake Fellows at the church also had a baby girl a few weeks ago so I am patiently (kind of) waiting for some baby time.

 

Have a great Memorial Day weekend everyone!

 

Playing Catch Up

Wow! I can’t believe that it has been so long since I have last written. I have just been sooo busy. From spending Thanksgiving with

12295282_1506861976309176_1313080274882794586_n
Mom and I played a lot of Scrabble!

my parents to Christmas here in the city, I have just had an amazing end of my year. I hope you all had as much fun as I had. This holiday season I pledged to spend my Christmas money on putting together 50 blessing bags.

Each bag was filled with essentials such as socks, gloves, water, and food. These were donated to Outreach, a local nonprofit that works with homeless teens and young adults here in Indianapolis. My housemates and I had our own Christmas a few days early before they headed home to their families. I also made cookies, pies, and fudge for the firemen next door on Christmas Day. I got to Skype with my family on Christmas morning so I was there to open gifts. Mom even got a picture of all her kids together for Christmas. Then I spent New Year’s all cozy in bed, live streaming the ball drop in New York.

It amazes me that it is already 21 days into the New Year. Here at Building Tomorrow we have been busy planning our April fundraising event. We are now asking local businesses to donate auction items so that we can raise lots of money and have an exciting evening. We are also getting ready for our board meeting as well as a big grant report we have due. So much to do this month and I wasted a week in bed sick! But I am back in business and we are pushing forward.

My housemates and I have taken on a two-week challenge. We usually eat/ buy all our food together. Since Saturday we have been making our own meals and buying our own food. We are taking a look at just how much we save by w1618671_575047100096_6958466394639632269_norking together. I am also interested to observe how we each take on our own nutrition. For Megan these first few days have been filled with finding recipes and carrying them out. I am super proud to say she has yet to burn the house down. Madison has been going with the flow and finding meals, as he is hungry. I have challenged myself to commit to the 21-Day Fix program. It is all about portion control and eating clean, unprocessed foods. It has been fun finding new recipes and getting to eat lots of veggies, including this yummy eggplant lasagna with brussel sprouts.

My eating challenge is part of my life plan. During my online course through Philanthropy University, I was asked to write up a life plan that focused on ten areas in my life. The goals were to be for 2016, 2020, and lifetime goals. With the start of the new year, I have been planning out how to accomplish these goals. From saving money to reading 500 books by 2020, I am slowly figuring out what I was to accomplish in life.

My health goal is to lose weight and be more active. My eating challenge is the start but it goes beyond that. Yesterday was day on of my Couch to 5K training. In June I will be running my first 5K. I also had a somewhat stressful day so I hid in the basement for an hour and did some Tae Bo and Tai Chi. Needless to say my legs weren’t excited for the half mile walk to work this morning.

I apologize for such a long post. I have so much to catch you up on! I will make sure to write again soon. Have a great week everyone!

Be a Blessing

Since last writing the world seems to have turned on it head. And many have taken to social media to voice their opinions…including me. This blog however is not my personal soapbox. This is a place for me to share my journey with all of you. This week my journey has been about evaluating where I stand on political, religious, and world conflicts. It has been a tough journey to read article after article from both sides; to interact with friends who disagree with my stance. I am interested an anxious to see how our country responds to current events. In the meantime, I offer up a prayer for peace, understanding, love, and direction. I pray for the world, for those who are so often left out of the media and for those that are in need and fearful during this season of thanksgiving, love, and giving.

Speaking of my favorite season, I have been trying to plan how I will be spending my holidays. As many of you know my parents are visiting for Thanksgiving. I am so excited not only to see my parents but also because they are bringing some stuff that I realized I needed this year. Like gloves, more long sleeve shirts, and porkroll. I usually go all out for the holidays. I love spending my money on other people at Christmas time. Since I will not be home this year I have decided to spend my money a little differently this year. I will be buying small gifts for my family, but then I will be using the rest of my budgeted Christmas money to put together 50 Blessing Bags for the men, women, and children who find themselves in need this winter. My budget is tight, but as long as I have a roof over my head, food in my tummy, and shoes on my feet, I have an obligation to share what I have. These blessing bags will include water, food, socks, gloves, first aid supplies, lip balm, and some other essentials.

We also have a very active fire department two doors down from our house. They get called out day and night, and night and day. So since I am spending Christmas day in an empty house, I have decided to make them lasagna as a thank you for all their hard work. I am also helping 2nd Pres. with their Christmas Benevolence program. Saturday begins their almost month long process of wrapping new toys and clothes for 123 families. They throw a party for the kids while their parents shop for gifts. I am super excited to help with that because the description was literally “hold babies” and since leaving NJ I have missed holding babies.

So those are my holiday plans; lots of serving and shopping. I am excited to spend my first Christmas away from home doing something for others. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone! And as you overfill on turkey, watch football on your big screen TV, and stand in line at 3AM on Friday, remember to enjoy what you have been blessed with and look for ways to share that blessing.

Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head

I have written and rewritten this post five times now. What do I say? I started with the generic this is my week. I moved on to a touching piece about determination, followed by a post about Building Tomorrow. Those were followed by a blog about conflict resolution and here I sit with a blank page staring back at me. As I sit here, I can here the rain falling outside.

Rain. I think it is a good starting place for this post. After two months of being in Indy, last week was the first time I have had to walk to walk in the rain. Thanks to my Wilson College umbrella I stayed mostly dry and got to work with only a few cold toes. When it rains in Indy, the city takes on a whole new persona. Colorful umbrellas rush up and down the streets, the buses mysteriously run on time, the traffic gets louder and the lights of the city look almost magical. I love the rain. I love sitting on my porch wrapped in a blanket, drinking a hot cup of tea, and watching the world go by. But the world doesn’t go by.

What a silly phrase. Obviously the whole world cannot traverse past my house, it has better things to do. I know this because in Uganda, they too have been getting rain. At first, I am sure they enjoy it just as much as me. However, they do not get to sit on their porches and enjoy the pitter patter of the raindrops. In Guya Guya, the rain has been falling, but the work has not stopped.

As part of my job here with Building Tomorrow, I help organize the photos that get sent from our building sites all across Uganda. For Guya Guya the rain has been no friend and the pictures show the determination of a community as they face miserable days.

diggingouttruck(2)_GuyaGuya_October2015

This is one of the many trucks that have gotten stuck on the muddy roads. Not only does this make for a long day of work, but it also means that sometimes, materials have to be unloaded and wash away.

To build a school in Uganda we have a unique approach. We raise the money here in the US and then through our Ugandan office, we hire local workers to build the schools. Before fundraising and building even begin, we form a contract with the local community. They donate the land and volunteer 15,000 hours towards the construction of the school. This helps to make the new school a point of pride in the community. BT did not just go in and drop a school on some land, the community helped build this place of learning. They dug the foundation, built up the walls, and even dug the latrines. Everyone gets involved.

digging the foundation

       When something like rain gets in the way, it seems like the determination to continue is just kicked into overdrive. It is amazing what the community does to make sure the school construction stays on track; from digging out trucks to continuing with the tasks that need to be completed.

latrine(3)_GuyaGuya_October2015

          The simple task of digging a latrine is made almost impossible by the flooding. And yet the community pulls together to continue building. This school is a place where their children will learn and grow and build themselves brighter futures.

So what are you building and under what circumstances? I have had my rainstorms here in Indy and from them have come strong bonds of friendship. Will it rain again? Of course, there will always be more rain. It is not the rain you have to worry about. It is your determination. My home church is going through a rainstorm. I can only hope they have the determination to push through and stay the course.

Tomorrows are built by the determined people of today. What kind of tomorrow are you building?

*Photos were taken by and belong to Building Tomorrow. *

Community Building

I am such a loser! Since writing that I would post every week, I haven’t! I apologize to all my loyal readers. Perhaps I will say that I will write every two weeks. That gives me time to experience exciting things and not bore you with mundane daily tasks.

Since last writing I have experienced even more of Indy. I have tried new restaurants, finally gotten my library card, and found a new work schedule that means I don’t have to sit in a crowded bus in the afternoon.

A two weeks ago Megan, Madison, and I went to Zimbabwe Night. It was a dinner fundraiser zimbabwe nightand as you can see the food was delicious. We sang and danced, we ate good food, and I met so many new people. As part of my job with Building Tomorrow, I am always looking up grants and foundations that may give us funding. Oftentimes I come across grants that we are not eligible for but that other non-profits may be. I met some of them that evening and so now as I research I can share what I find with other non-profits working in Africa.

Last week I enrolled in two free online courses through Philanthropy University. I am having a blast connecting with people from all over the world and learning about them, their work, and what brought them to these courses. My boss gave me the link and I was so excited to start broadening my knowledge.

The people at 2nd Pres. who have been hosting us continue to be amazing. They welcome us at church, send love and support when we need it, and go out of their way to make us feel at home. This weekend, Megan and I walked in the Crop Walk. Well Megan walked it, I got about half a mile in and my silly back started acting up again. It was still a nice day and after a few aspirin I was good a new.

heartland film   Last night we got to attend a film showing as part of the Heartland Film Festival. We saw Lake Los Angeles. It was wonderful. The theater is in an apartment building specifically for artists and the film was just awesome. When I got home I was looking through the other films being shown through the week and I want to see them all! Do you think my boss will let me use my vacation days to go watch movies all day? Probably not, besides I have to save my days because my mom and dad are coming to town! I am super excited to see them and show them all the places I have come to love in Indy.

view from work

This is my view in the morning from my office building. As you can see it is still quite dark. Well I better get to work. Today is my Monday. Yesterday the YAVs spent the afternoon exploring different spiritual practices. One was to sit quietly and try to empty your mind of all thoughts. If you drifted you would say a word that would bring you back to the task. It was the longest 9 minutes I have sat through in a long time. Well my boss just walked through the door and I am never short of work to do. Have a great couple of weeks everyone! Thanks for reading and remember to check out http://www.buildingtomorrow.org!

My Indiversary

What a week! As of Thursday I had been in Indy for a month! With that exciting benchmark, I have had a busy week. On Monday we participated in the Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light Climate Bootcamp. We learned about our responsibility to protect and preserve God’s creation. It was an enjoyable day getting to talk about one of my topics of personal interest.

Tuesday started off with a boiling hot bath of tea and my bus breaking down. But I did get to work. My boss is currently in Uganda checking in with our staff there. We are excited to have several groundbreakings going on. Every day we get photos from the field of foundations being dug, latrine walls being built, and the joyful smiles of kids excited to see the schools being built. This April we will be hosting our Build a School Night. It is a fancy night of food, fun, and fundraising. We have an auction for some nice trips and items followed by a reverse auction. We auction off pieces of a school. Last year a family gave $30,000! That was enough to build the whole school. From there people bought windows, doors, a roof, and even latrines. We are already beginning the planning process and are excited to make this year’s even awesome!

On Wednesday, Megan and I went to Happy Hour at the Symphony. Restaurants and beverage companies had samples of their dishes followed by an hour performance by Time for Three. It was a fantastic night and the passion with which the group performed was incredible.

bumblebee              To celebrate my one month anniversary in Indy we went to the Children’s Museum. They are gearing up for Halloween and as you can see even Bumblebee is ready for Trick or Treating. They also opened their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle exhibit. What amazes me about the museum is the level of interaction. From dress up stations to computer interaction there is something for everyone. Target sponsors a free evening every month so people who can’t usually afford the ticket price can go. The exhibits are catered to the children but also have an element of learning for the adults. It is amazing how much fun three young adults can have in a children’s museum.

group pyoca    On Friday we left for a weekend young adult retreat with some of the people from 2nd Pres. It was a weekend of relaxing, community building, and growing in faith. I learned that I rock at Bananagrams. On Saturday the group went out to the high ropes course. I did not participate but I did get 107 awesome photos of everyone as they went through the course. The pouring down rain was an added challenge. Everyone had tons of fun. These are my roommates on the course and some of our group making pizzas for dinner. We also did and afternoon of community service for the camp as well as small group times, and worship. It was a really great weekend and we all came back having made new friends.

pizza making megan madison

Part of this weekend was examining how we view service and how we serve. As a volunteer I understand that I am doing service through this program. However, I often feel like I am not doing enough. I am not out feeding people, I am not cleaning streets or going to protests. I sit in an office and schedule meetings, loading apps onto tablets for our fellows, and uploading photos. Not what I consider service. As I was expressing this during one of my small group sessions, one of the women reminded me that if I was not doing all those little things for the office someone else would have to do them. It was a refreshing reminder that what I am doing this year is important. By relieving the work from others, I am giving them the time to focus on the things that they do best, building tomorrows.

Building Tomorrow

I am so blessed to be in this spot. As I write this I am sitting in the foyer of The Second Presbyterian Church of Indianapolis or 2nd Pres. as we call it. I am blessed to be here but also to be serving in Indianapolis. As I get more involved with my work with Building Tomorrow and developing my intentional community with Megan and Madison, I reflect that I have been given so much in my life and this is one of those things.

This week I delved more deeply into my work with Building Tomorrow. Our Chief Dreamer, George, is going to a conference where he will meet with people from all over the world focused on changing the world in their own way. My job this week has been to compile a list of people who can help us to further our mission through grants, foundations, or networking. It has been so much fun looking into companies and foundations to see where their passions rest. It has also been nerve wracking to think that George will be heading into this conference with my list and notes to help him. I can only hope that I have given him enough information to network effectively.

Aside from learning more about the company I have also been learning more about the people I work with. On Thursday we walked to the City Market and had lunch together. It was a beautiful day for a walk and it gave me a chance to connect with my coworkers. Yesterday they were at a Building Tomorrow conference with students from colleges that support BT. I did not attend but I am sure it was a fun time and helps spread the message of what BT does for Uganda and for us here in the US.

On Friday the YAVs took on Downtown Indy. We attended a cultural awareness event meant to bring together the many people of differing faiths and cultures. They had a “passport” challenge and each table had an activity to complete in order to get your passport signed and entered into a raffle.

monsterThis was taken after we learned how to say monster in Scandinavian. After completing our challenges I won a door prize! I was super excited.

On Saturday we went to the St. George’s Festival at St. George’s Orthodox Christian Church.

st george festivalst george festival domest george

There was music, food, and vendors displaying the best they had to offer. The church believes that through icons we can get a glimpse of God. Their sanctuary is covered with murals depicting scenes from the Bible. My phone’s camera cannot even share a fraction of what I saw. I could have stayed and starred at the ceiling for hours. The detailed placement of characters, the connections made through stories and physical placement on the building. It was truly as sight I could never tire of looking at.

Each of the places I have gotten to explore and learn about this week remind me that I am building tomorrow. Through my work placement and the people I meet and interact with. I am building the future. I am blazing a path for future YAVs. I am an ambassador of my faith to everyone I meet. It makes me constantly think about what future I am building. What future are you building? Is it one of love, caring, and understanding? Are you being an ambassador of your faith or is fear and hate clouding your motivation? Be the tomorrow you want to see. Be the helping hand for those that need a lift. Paint the walls of your soul with your faith and let it be a window through which all people can glimpse God.